My husband and I socialize a fair bit. Inevitably, at every gathering the topic of our respective professions comes up. My husband is a karate sensei and that pretty much dominates the conversation for most of the evening. It’s a cool job, he gets to teach children a life skill, and he gets to break boards at work. Who wouldn’t want that life!
And then the question comes around to what I do for a living. Last weekend, we were at a barbecue and one of the guests asked me what I did. I work in Human Resources, I told him. Now, 10 times out of 10, the person across from me smiles hesitantly and says, “Oh, that’s nice. Do you like it?”. As if on cue, Jack asked me the same question. Apparently, no one can fathom someone in HR actually liking what they do. And let’s face it. When we look at the perception of a typical HR job, it involves HR people making rules in the workplace and making sure everyone follows those rules. HR people are possibly the most hated people in any company. Even our place on the social committee is secured solely so we advise people on the “should dos” and “cant’ dos”.
Of course, that’s not what good HR actually is.
You know when you go to a store and successfully negotiate a really expensive item down to a price that makes your heart sing? You feel such a sense of accomplishment, such pride. You go home happy and satisfied. Then you savour that story and tell everyone you know about how you got a 6-burner stove that was originally listed at six thousand dollars down to thirty-nine hundred dollars. And everyone is in awe and claps you on the back to congratulate you on your major accomplishment.
Well, what if I told you that I feel like that every single day? And, that I can make you and your employees feel like that every single day no matter what their job?
Imagine walking into work and seeing your employees putting forward their best, making you money, keeping your customers satisfied. Where your employees are not griping about pay. Where they have a best friend at work. Where they feel a sense of ownership, and where they are loyal to you and the company.
That’s what HR can do.
Yes, HR is about policies and procedures and ensuring that your company meets the Employment Standards Act and other labour laws. It’s about making sure that everyone at the company is respectable and treats each other respectfully. That is the foundation of any good company, but it’s also the narrowest view of HR’s role.
I know it’s a huge cliché, but a small business relies on its people. Without a top performing team of employees, a small business will not survive. Owners and Founders cannot do everything so they need a team of trustworthy people around them. But it’s not enough to have high performing individuals. You can have any number of super achieving, A-types, but if they don’t all share the same values, the team will fail.
HR looks at the company’s values, recruits people who share those values. HR looks at the people in the organization, identifies their strengths and weaknesses, helps them hone their strengths, helps them improve their weaknesses, helps them work together. A good HR partner will coach leaders to listen to their employees, make recommendations for changes to operational processes, and make recommendations on how to organize work. Yes, you read that right! A good HR partner will take the time to understand how you operate and point out blind spots, ask questions, and push the status quo.
The result: a high functioning team, with an outstanding product or service, a full roster of repeat customers, and a steady flow of referrals.
To answer the question, small businesses don’t need HR. Certainly, many companies manage without it. But imagine, for one second, the possibilities with a really good HR partner by your side.